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Pediatricians to Teach Kids About Social Media Dangers

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Pediatricians will now take a more active role in keeping children informed of the mental health dangers that come with abusing popular social media platforms.

According to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids’ physicians are as vital of figures as any others in keeping kids from overusing things like Facebook, Twitter, gaming sites and texting.

"Pediatricians are in a unique position to help families understand these sites and to encourage healthy use and urge parents to monitor for potential problems with cyberbullying, 'Facebook depression,' sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content," the report titled The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families noted.

Still, while pediatricians will see their role gain prominence, the majority of the responsibility remains on the shoulders of parents:

"We just want to educate parents about the importance of them having a very open and transparent discussion" with kids, said Dr. Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, a pediatrician in Chapel Hill, N.C., who co-wrote the academy's report. "And I think even in the tween years, this has to be happening because more and more, pop culture is percolating down to tweens."

According to Dr. Hatim Omar, a pediatrics professor from the University of Kentucky, teens can be easily moved by what they see on different social networking sites or the web:

"They do not develop abstract thinking until about age 17, 18, which means they cannot foresee what something leads to," said Omar, chief of the adolescent medicine division. "The mantra basically is 'it's not going to happen to me,' so they will do these things because everybody else is.

"It's a lot easier if we start talking to parents when their kids are 8, 9, 10," Omar said. "That way, they can start setting standards or rules before it's too late."

According to a recent poll, 22 percent of teenagers log in to their favorite social media sites more than 10 times per day. Further, more than half a dozen of adolescents log on to social media more than once a day, the same poll indicated.

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